Monday, 21 October 2013

End of the Season Garden Notes

Uh, hello. Kind of fell of the edge there for a while. The noise-to-signal ratio in my brain is never the best, but lately it's been all-static all the time. However, sooner or later one has to attempt to pull things together again, so here goes.

It's been a long time since I've done a garden report, so I'm going back to the end of August for this part. We had a wild thunderstorm one evening, during which we heard an enormous "CRACK". "Wow, that was a close strike!" we said. In the morning we went out and found this 100' poplar had fallen over. It hadn't actually been struck by lightening that we could see, just blown over. Fortunately, even though it fell towards the house, it was about 95' away, so it just brushed the house, and it was the tip of the tree that broke and not the house.

We hired a tree company to come in and chip up everything small enough to chip, so we now have an enormous pile of mulch available. The trunk was cut into "manageable" pieces and left to us. Fortunately, a neighbour saw them and asked if he could have them, and we were able to get rid of them quite quickly.

This photo is from mid September, I guess. I can see the beans still look okay, although we got anthracnose in them this year, and our harvest was definitely cut short. We did get 90% of what we expected to freeze and a very large quantity of dried beans, so it wasn't a complete disaster. Still, anthracnose is a nasty disease and I am very annoyed to have yet another bacteria/fungus cavorting in the garden to be dealt with.

I can see from this picture that one bed has been cleared of dry beans and planted with lettuce for the late fall/early spring. Also that we have not put away the live-trap, with which we hoped to catch the damned rabbit that ate a bunch of our soybeans, but failed.

Here is Mr. Ferdzy with our largest watermelon of the year, a Moon & Stars (Van Doren strain). If Mr. Ferdzy looks a little dismayed, it's because when he picked it up to pose with it, rotten liquid poured out the bottom. It turned out that a number of watermelons failed to seal up properly on the blossom end, and so the insides rotted. Too bad; this would probably have been close to 40 pounds of watermelon.

However, we weren't exactly short of melons. They were my project of the year, and we had lots and lots. It wasn't the best year for melons at all, but I console myself with the thought that if you are assessing a large number of melons, there are benefits to doing it in a bad year. You can at least tell which ones hold up to abuse and which ones don't. And since abuse is a regular garden feature, it's something you need to know sooner or later.

Here was the second-largest of the Sun & Moon watermelons, a 24 pounder, along with a selection of other melons. The spotted pear-shaped melon in the middle was an excellent melon I will certainly grow again, a crenshaw-type melon called Sweet Freckles. Most crenshaws don't do well in short, cool summers, but this one was specially bred to handle it, and handle it it did.

Early in October, right after we did our garlic tasting, we planted our garlic for next year. We cut it down from 7 varieties to 4 varieties, although we still planted the same quantity of garlic overall; a 5' by 16' section. That's a lot of garlic, but we use it and/or share it with friends and family, and we expect to run out before the next batch is ready to harvest.

For the first time, we were actually able to harvest sunflower seeds. This is something Mr. Ferdzy has been trying to do for several years, and failing because usually the birds get to them well before we do. We picked up some sunflower seeds in Turkey, and they turned out to work well. The blossoms are slow to fall of the seeds, which I think helps hide them from the critters, and then they are very tightly packed, which makes them harder to get out once the critters do find them.

Unfortunately, we picked them then left them in a cool spot when we should have been drying them with heat, and they went mouldy! We've rescued enough for seed, but very frustrating. I'm also not convinced that they are worth all the trouble involved in processing them, though I suspect sunflowers will be a useful thing to grow if we ever get around to getting some chickens.

Even though the weather has continued to be cool and rainy, we have been working on getting the garden cleaned up for the winter. The compost compound is full to bursting, with much more still to come.

Most of the trellises are now down, just a couple still to go. Lots of weeding still to be done, and we need to run around and pick up all the hoses, rakes, ladders, etc that have just been left lying around. (Neatniks we are not.)

The peanuts and sweet potatoes have been harvested, so only the peppers are still under plastic and they will come out as soon possible at this point. We got an okay sweet potato harvest in spite of the weather, as we kept them under plastic pretty much all season. Unfortunately, there is a lot of mouse damage because the plastic provided good cover for them too. Next year if we cover them, we will have to also run a trap-line.

After that, there will only be a few frost-hardy things left in the garden: brassicas, rutabagas, parsnips, carrots, celery, leeks, and winter radishes. Some will be picked and used or stored, and some will be left in the garden to overwinter.

Here's some of this years dry beans. Compare them to the ones from last year. I don't think the weather was better for beans, and we had the anthracnose to contend with this year. Still, this is WAY more beans (holy cow, it's more than double!) from the same space as last year - I believe this is one years worth of seed selection, paying off.

We had a couple of crossed beans show up this year. One would have happened at the seed company, and one would have happened in my garden. The first one wasnt' worth keeping, but I was impressed at how this one turned out. The mother was Dolloff, and the father, I'm pretty sure, was Cherokee Trail of Tears. There were 3 plants from the cross, and between them they produced about 2 cups of seed - pretty impressive. The beans are also attractive. I have yet to try eating them, but I've saved some for seed and if they are tasty we will grow them out and try to stabilise them. If we succeed, it will be a new variety of bean! That would be fun.

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